| We all experience self-interest to a certain degree; this seems to be some natural defense mechanism that keeps our bodies moving. This is nothing for anyone to be ashamed of, and it has nothing to do with the destructive behavior that we are talking about here. However, a line is crossed when someone makes the decision to employ force, fraud, coercion or manipulation to achieve their goals.

This is where it seems that the line between “selfishness” and “self-interest” should be drawn. If someone is not using aggressive, manipulative tactics to meet their needs and achieve their goals, then it is safe to say that no crime is being committed, no harm is being done. Every organization throughout history that has exploited people and made a mess of civilization has relied on violent and deceptive means to carry out this exploitation. Every menacing corporation that we see today has not risen to prominence on account of their contributions to society, but rather their ability to prevent their competitors from succeeding. Likewise, every despot and monarch on the face of the earth has been able to subjugate millions on account of the violence or manipulation that was used by themselves or their ancestors.

It seems to me that this way of doing business is not a result of human nature, but simply a consequence of our current establishment. These corporations typically get their way by using the arm of the State to tailor the marketplace according to their needs, which is why all of the biggest corporations always have armies of lobbyists. This is not only a deceptive maneuver, but it is also a violent one because all state demands are enforced under the threat of violence. Thus, allowing dominant corporations to maintain their dominance by legally paying a third party (government enforcers) to make trouble for their rising competition. This is why entrepreneurs have so much trouble competing with bigger corporations, regardless of how much value they offer the community.

The aforementioned actions are without a doubt selfish, as they show the blatant use of force, fraud and manipulation. However, everyone that starts a business with hopes of fulfilling their own self-interest is not behaving selfishly. Obviously, I’m sure that these aren’t the Oxford English definitions for these terms, but I felt that they would be perfect in describing how the ethical value of actions are dependent upon the use of aggression or manipulation.

It is extremely important that we make this distinction because self-interest is harmless and exhibited by most if not all human beings, while selfishness is defined by violence, fraud and other rare psychopathic behavior. By removing aggression and manipulation from our encounters with other people, we can actually create a world where win-win encounters are the standard for human interactions.

Win-win encounters are possible, but are unfortunately extremely rare, because our culture is only built to support win-lose encounters. Hitting people over the head and forcing them to do things is the only conflict resolution technique that is presently being used in our civilization. The only thing that ever changes is who’s holding the club. Read Entire Article

By John G. Vibes